The good, the bad and the samurai If you ask anyone, what their favourite and memorable Japanese samurai films are, they will nearly always star Toshiro Mifune – Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro and all the others. Whilst these are Akira Kurosawa masterpieces, Mifune always took the starring roles. Whether he’s the lone, scruffy ronin serving justice for the underdog, taking the high ground as someone akin to Robin Hood or simply the loyal retainer looking after his master or mistress, Mifune stands out for many as the archetypal samurai, the doer of good; the server of justice; the killer of foes. His fame was, and still is, worldwide. The guttural tones, his swagger and posture marked his arrival on screen, giving him the presence of a master of his art. Cutting Edge wanted to find out more about Mifune, so we started doing a bit of research. H e was born on 1st April 1920, in Tsingtao, China (now Qingdao, Shandong, China), to Japanese parents and grew up in Dalian. He did not set foot in Japan until he was 21. A tall man for his era, standing at 5’9” (1.75m), with an appearance of being much taller. His father was an importer and a commercial photographer, and young Toshiro worked in his father’s studio for a time after graduating from Dalian 8 | CUTTING EDGE Middle School. He was automatically drafted into the Japanese army when he turned 20, and enlisted in the Air Force where he was attached to the Aerial Photography Unit for the duration of the World War II. It was his goal to become a camera man after serving during the war, but after winning a talent contest for Toho, his planned career took a diversion to being in front of the camera instead of behind it.